There’s a lot that has and hasn’t been said about dog toys.
In this guide, we outline some of the more commonly talked about things, such as the different types of dog toys that you can get for your dog
But, we’ve also included some of the lesser communicated information such as dog toy safety.
This guide should be a useful read for both new and experienced dog owners looking for more information on dog toys.
Let’s jump into it!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Firstly, Dog Toys Aren’t A Complete Substitute For Interaction, Attention & Exercise
This is a point worth making.
Some owners have busy work and/or social lives, and their solution to entertain their dog is to buy a collection of dog toys to leave at home with their dog while they are out the house.
Unless a dog has a massive fenced off property or reserve to safely explore and run around in while you are away, this is not a healthy solution. But, even then you could argue that it’s not really a solution for a domesticated house dog.
Two of biggest things a dog needs before thinking about buying dog toys are:
- Quality time and interaction/attention from it’s owner – this involves playing, patting and being in each other’s company
- Exercise – most dogs should be getting around half an hour of exercise a day, such as a brisk walk and lots of sniffing and exploring
- [A bonus is interaction with other dogs – around the neighborhood, out on walks, or at the dog park. A companion dog can also be great if you can afford a second dog in terms of money and time investment!]
If a dog is consistently getting these things from you, then at this point might think about getting dog toys for further entertainment, physical interaction, and mental stimulation.
Different Types & Styles Of Dog Toys
Some of the main types of dog toys are:
- Chew toys (bone toys, rubber toys, and so on)
- Rope and tug toys
- Ball toys and launchers
- Plush, soft and cuddly toys
- Squeaky toys
- Interactive toys
- Puzzle toys
- Treat dispensing toys
- Training toys and flirt poles
- Puppy toys
- Toys for small dogs
- Toys for big dogs
- Raw and natural toys (raw bones, wooden sticks, and so on)
Different Dog Toy Materials
Some common dog toy materials include:
- Rope and woven fibre
- Natural materials – like wood, animal bones and antlers, ec.
New Dog Toys
Several places you can buy new dog toys from are:
- Online sellers (from pet brands directly on their websites, and from online sellers like Amazon)
- Local pet shop stores in your area
Secondhand Dog Toys
Several places you can get second hand dog toys from are:
- Garage sales
- Thrift stores, and donation stores
Homemade & DIY Dog Toys
Some of the easier-to-make homemade and DIY type dog toys are:
- Used plastic soda bottles – some dogs like to play with and chew on them as they are, whilst another option is to some food inside the bottle that won’t come out of the top, and watch your dog spend time trying to get the food out of the bottle
- Used tennis balls – some dogs like playing with them and chewing on them as they are. But, another option is make a small cut in them with a knife, and place some treats or other food inside the inner rubber and watch your dog try to get it out
- Old shoes – some dogs love chewing on them as they are … especially the laces
- A used basketball, soccer ball or football – inflated, or semi deflated. Roll it towards your dog and see if they take to it
- Used fabric or material – from t shirts, denim jackets and jeans, towels and rags and so on. You can cut them up, braid/weave them, knot them at each end, and use them like a homemade rope/tug toy for your dog
- Plastic bottles with treats inside them on a wood frame – put together a basic wood frame yourself with a plank base, and two upright pieces of wood. Drill a hole in each upright, and make sure you can thread a wooden or metal pole or bar through each end, and get the bar/pole to sit tightly whilst running the length of plank to each upright. Next, get three plastic bottles and cut holes just slightly bigger than the diameter of the bar/pole in each of them so they are able to spin freely on the pole/bar whilst suspended above the ground. Thread the bar/pole through one upright, and then put the bottles on the bar/pole, and then thread the bar/pole through the second upright. Put a few treats in each bottle.What then happens is that your dog can spin the bottles with their paw or nose to try get the treats out of the bottles. Google ‘dog toy bottles with treats’ to see videos of what this toy is, and how to make it.
Sustainable/Eco Friendly & Natural Dog Toys
The most sustainable and natural dog toy you can get is:
- A wooden stick or branch that has fallen off a tree (you can take it home and cut or round off any protrusions and sharp edges before giving it to your dog)
Second hand and homemade dog toys are next on the sustainability list.
Beyond that – a new dog toy made in a sustainable process, or with sustainable or recyclable materials might be the next option (compared to a new dog toy made from a material made from non recyclable plastic or rubber)
What Size Toy To Get For A Dog?
There’s two ways you might decide on a size of toy for a dog:
- The first is to read the product description for a toy – they generally tell you what size of dog each different sized toy is designed for. Some toys even tell you that their toy is designed for dogs 35lbs and smaller, or is specifically intended for large and XL dogs
- The second might be when you get a toy, watch how your dog plays with it and how it sits in their mouth. If it looks like the toy is big enough that your dog can’t swallow it whole – it might be a suitable sized toy for your dog
How You Might Maintain Your Dog’s Interest In It’s Toys
Dogs can get bored of their toys if they are left laying around and they always have access to them.
Instead, you might try keeping your dog’s toys in a basket in a cupboard.
Only give them one toy every 1 or 2 days, for an hour or two.
This way, a dog might be more excited and see their toys as more of a treat when they do come out. You can also use the toys as a reward for good behavior like your dog going outside to go to the toilet.
Safety Considerations For Dog Toys
Some safety considerations for dog toys might include:
- Making sure the toy isn’t small enough for a dog to swallow it or choke on it
- Making sure a toy can’t break down into smaller pieces or shards and be swallowed by a dog. Examples of toys that might do this are cheap or poorly made rope and chew toys – they can fray very easily, and the small bits of rope can break off and be swallowed
- Make sure the toy isn’t so hard that is can break a dog’s teeth
- Be aware of the materials the toy is made of, and the treatments applied to the toy – make sure they are toxic or hazardous. Some examples include heavy metals like cadmium, lead and chromium. Other examples include heavily dyed toys (with synthetic dyes), and toys treated with fire retardants
- If the toy contains exposed glue, make sure there is nothing hazardous used in the glue and it doesn’t erode into your dog’s mouth
- If the toy is plastic, make sure it is phthalate and BPA free
- Avoid plush (with stuffing inside), latex and leather toys for heavy chewers. Avoid toys with small squeakers inside too (they can be swallowed)
- Pay attention to warnings in the product description and on the toy label
Something to note is that there is the same toxicity register for dogs and pets as there is for humans – which can sometimes make it hard to determine what is and isn’t safe for dogs.
How You Might Find Safe Dog Toys (& Some Further Information On Dog Toy Safety)
One of the safest dog toys might be:
- A wooden stick that is big enough that your dog won’t swallow it, that you round the sharp edges off, that you make sure is solid enough that it won’t splinter into smaller sharp pieces that your dog can swallow, and isn’t so hard that it will damage your dog’s teeth by gripping or mildly chewing it
The advantage of a wooden stick that you find in a park or somewhere where there are trees growing is that you know it’s completely natural. There’s no chance of synthetic materials or chemicals being used in the makeup of the stick
- There isn’t the same strict regulation over dog toys as children’s toys
- Be aware of toys manufactured overseas, and cheap toys manufactured in the US
- Search the Archived Pet Supply Data to see if your product has been tested for toxins.
- Check your product against the FDA’s list of recalled and withdrawn products.
- Ask the manufacturer about the presence of PVC, phthalates, BPA, lead, chromium, melamine, arsenic, bromine, formaldehyde.
- If you suspect problems with a toy and your dog is behaving strangely, bring them to the vet, along with the toy for evaluation or testing.
- The manufacturer themselves is probably the best person to contact to confirm their toy is safe for dogs to use – ask for a general confirmation, but also testing results, and what regulations it meets
- West Paw Designs, KONG, The Stick That’s Not A Stick, Qchefs Chews, and Virbac Dental Chews might be some of the safest dog toys available
Other Potential Problems With Some Dog Toys
Be aware of some of these problems with dog toys:
- Some toys can smell
- Some toys can make a lot of noise (such as squeaker toys, and plastic bottles with treats in them)
- Some toys are expensive, and get destroyed quickly
- Your dog simply won’t be interested in playing with some toys
Dog Toys Specifically For Puppies
Specifically with puppies, you have to be aware that:
- You’ll need a toy small enough so that a puppy can fit it in it’s mouth and chew on it or play with it
- You can’t make the toy too small – or your puppy can swallow it and choke on it
- The toy also shouldn’t be a risk to break into smaller pieces and be swallowed by your puppy
For puppies going through teething, a good toy can be:
- Place a slightly wet towel or rag in the freezer twisted up – wait until it’s cold or hardened up slightly, and then take it out and let your dog chew on it. This can ease some of the discomfort in the gums and give your puppy to chew on whilst teething
- Bones and KONGs can also be good toys for teething puppies. The Nylabone Wishbone toy for dogs smaller than 35lbs might also be an option
What To Do With Used Dog Toys
Some options might be:
- Donate them to an animal shelter or dog rescue if they are still in tact
- Donate them to another dog owner
- Recycle them (if they are made from recyclable materials)
- Dispose of them in general trash
How To Wash/Clean Dog Toys Safely
Inside a bucket of warm water, you might put:
- A natural cleaning detergent or anti bacterial solution (with all natural ingredients)
- Or, a vinegar and baking soda solution
Wash the dog toys with a rag and leave them to soak.
After soaking, empty the bucket, and re-fill it with clean water and rinse the dog toys with clean water.
The dog toys should them be clean to use.
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